If you only speak English, as I do, please do not be scared off by the title Capadocia. This DVD set, released by HBO Latin America Originals and Maya Entertainment, includes English subtitles. For those not used to watching television with subtitles, which would be most people, it gets pretty easy after just a few minutes, and you may not even notice the extra work. Besides, it’s worth a bit of trouble for a series as well made as this one. Primera Temporada means season one, which aired in the spring of 2008, but has just been released on DVD last week. A second season aired last fall, but is not yet available.
Translated, the subtitle means “A Place Without Forgiveness,” which is an apt description of the Capadocia women’s prison in Mexico City, a private jail established by a greedy corporation. Inmates are chosen from a less hospitable facility, and transferred to Capadocia early in the show’s run. Of course, not everyone in the series is bad, and several of the main characters work very hard to make Capadocia the safest, least corrupt holding pen of its type. They have their work cut out for them.
The cast is phenomenal. Sticking out is Dolores Heredia (Vantage Point) as Teresa Lagos, the human right activist and professor who is named director of Capadocia. Teresa works with prisoners at the former jail, and sees many inmates who do not deserve to be locked up for one reason or another. This makes her the natural choice when Capadocia opens. Some perps committed a crime in self defense, some are put behind bars because of a lack of fair trial, and a few have reformed after minor transgressions. Teresa knows the justice system is deeply corrupt, greased with bribes and favors, but keeps trying to get women released. She succeeds with a handful, but with others, she will be fighting for a long time. Her courage and determination is nothing short of inspirational. Plus, to make her work day even more hectic, Teresa and the prison psychologist Jose (Alejandro Camacho) have a mutual attraction.
Further complicating Teresa’s time is her obnoxious daughter, Andrea (Dolores Parados), who, just before her 18th birthday, begins unknowingly sleeping with Teresa’s student and former lover, Daniel (Rodrigo de la Rosa). Daniel is bitter that Teresa dumped him. Parados begins the season very immature, and she allows Andrea to age nicely over the course of the thirteen episodes, actually becoming one of the most interesting women in the show by the finale.
Teresa’s ex-husband, Santiago (Marco Antonio Trevino), a governor running for president, forces her into the job, and keeps trying to stop her from quitting. He is a fairly noble man. Though he has made some bad mistakes, he tries to keep his office clean, and deserves credit for that. Of course, it doesn’t help that Santiago also hires his lover, Isabel (Silvia Carusillo), as the head of prison security.
If that sounds like a lot, it’s because it is. Capadocia‘s plots are intricate and linked together in numerous ways. Teresa is at the center of many of them, and Heredia is an expert at the various emotions that have to constantly dance across Teresa’s face. She is a woman with many stresses, who is barely keeping it together, especially as the season comes to a close, which has surprises that cannot be spoiled. Throughout, the actress proves her far above average talent repeatedly.
The prisoners Teresa must deal with are a colorful bunch, added to almost every week. Most episodes have a subplot following unrelated, brand new characters, one of whom will wind up in Capadocia at the end of the hour, or early in the next one. As such, the prison population swells throughout the season, stretching the cast, as many, many actors get at least a few scenes here and there every couple of weeks. Thankfully, Teresa’s goal of rehabilitation and release, as well as some bribed judges, lead to some leaving, too, so there’s a cyclical nature about the players.
A handful of the prisoners stand out. First is Lorena (Ana de la Reguera), who is a housewife in the first episode. After she catches her husband and best friend sleeping together, and the friend accidentally takes a fatal tumble down the stairs, Lorena is interned at Capadocia. She, more than anyone else, faces great changes, going from a happy, wealthy life to the hardened, drug laced, gang run world on the inside. She copes as best as can be expected, but she is one unlucky lady. Reguera switches personalities with ease, as the circumstances demand.
La Bambi (Cecilia Suarez, Spanglish) has the prison under her thumb, with the help of corrupt guard, La Negra (Aida Lopez, Frida). Suarez is a master of dangerous energy, with everyone, including the guards, visibly intimidated by her. Also under Bambi’s thumb is Consuelo (Cristina Umana), the pretty Columbian with a past, who many would like to get in their bed. Magos (Luisa Huertas) is the motherly type, which may be considered ironic, after what she did to her real children. And those are just the ones already locked up when Capadocia begins.
On the outside, the worst of the worst include Cristobal (Enrique Singer) and his assistant Frederico (Juan Manuel Bernal). They are a detestable duo, smuggling illegal substances through Capadocia, and treating the prisoners like slave labor. They are Teresa’s biggest foes, and make formidable ones, since they have influence everywhere. They are truly well written villains, hard to defeat.
Capadocia is one of the best put together series on television right now. It doesn’t matter in what language it airs, because it’s a gripping, intense story, with narrative surprises, authentic settings, deep emotional levels, moral quandries, and fascinating characters. The 13 episodes range from 55 minutes to almost one hour and twenty minutes, but none feel too long. Every second will keep you on the edge of your seat.
Unfortunately, the special features do not share the subtitles. The Cast Filmographies can be read in English, but the sneak peek at season two, the trailers, and the featurettes are only in Spanish. As such, I am not able to review them, since I could not understand a word being said, and only watched small portions. But take it from me, this DVD set is totally worth it for the episodes alone. And the cheap retail price of $19.99 certainly won’t hurt, either.
Buy Capadocia Primera Tempora today. You won’t regret it.